THE GROUP PROJECT
Researched Writing Projects
Phase One: Find a Problem/Need/Opportunity
Phase one calls for individual work to develop topic statements
for potential projects. The group will then select from among these
topic statements to determine which project to pursue.
Elements of a topic statement:
To begin generating viable topics, you might look at three (perhaps overlapping)
state a potential problem your group could address,
describe what organization your group is or represents or could represent,
identify the decision-making readers your group could attempt to persuade,
demonstrate the timeliness of the topic and available information by giving
the citation for one current (1998-2000) print article and summarizing
Once you have these inventories in mind, use GRACE, especially questions
about goals and readers to identify topics to pursue. You're looking
for an idea that is interesting enough to keep you energized and working
hard on this project, challenging enough to make the project substantial,
and yet limited enough to complete in the time you have available this
Scan the field of your own major. What trends and concerns in your
discipline interest you and strike you as worth investing some time and
effort in understanding? Make an inventory of problems/needs/opportunities.
Look at your own work site, either your permanent work, your temporary
summer work, or your work or volunteer or internship site during school.
What problems and opportunities face you or your organization? Make
Think about your life as a student at WVU. Are there things you as
a student (in collaboration with other students) could to improve any aspect
of the WVU environment? Make and inventory.
Try the following checklist:
From your inventories (above), identify three specific problems /needs/opportunities
that you might address.
Describe each problem/need/opportunity. Identify specific behaviors, policies,
practices, activities, or technical characteristics that seem significant.
Evaluate each problem/need/opportunity in terms of its potential to be
addressed productively by a written report or proposal:
Is this problem complex enough to challenge and interest you? Is
there some real meat here? Does it require some substantial thought, problem
generation, problem analysis, research, reader/audience analysis, and organization
Does the problem interest other people too?
Does the problem relate to your background and make use of your capabilities?
Is this problem worth solving? (Imagine answering the question, "So what?")
Do some preliminary research. Find and summarize at least one CURRENT
(1998-2000) source on one of the problems you've identified. A fast
way to do this is to use the library's current periodicals (e.g., 6th floor
in Wise) or one of the library's on-line full-text databases. Access
the databases on the web at: http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/database/fulltext_index.html
Phase Two: Write a Proposal
Goals for the proposal
Convince readers that your project is worthwhile.
Convince readers that you will complete the project successfully.
Clarify your goals and your plans for the project itself. Identify
the different aspects of the project and divide up the work so that you're
ready to move forward.
Make some progress on the project itself. You should have at least
a tentative plan for the structure of the document you will produce at
the end of the project, and you should develop a preliminary GRACE analysis
of the project. Some of the key data you'll ultimately use in the
final document should probably be in your proposal.
The primary reader for your proposal is me. This is different
from the final project document you will produce, where the primary readers
will be the people you want to persuade or inform concerning the project.
Secondary readers for the proposal might be people you are interviewing
for the project. For example, some of the language in the proposal
might help explain to them what you are up to and why you need their help.
There may be other secondary readers as well.
Arguments: Significance, Resources, Benefits/Risks, Outcomes
Significance. Why is your project significant? Why are
you interested in it? Who else would be interested--or should be
interested--in it? Why? What's the history of the issue you
are dealing with? What are the implications for the future?
Resources (Money, Time, Information). Money shouldn't
be a significant issue for this project. You will probably only have
to pay for some photocopying. In any case, account for any expenses
you do anticipate. Much more important is the availability of time--weeks
in the semester and hours in the week. Do you have enough time to
do what you want to do? An important part of your resources argument
will be a description of how you'll allocate the responsibilities and activities
among yourselves to make sure you get it all done. Another important
consideration is access to information. Do you know what information
you will need and how you will get it (from print media, electronic media,
interviews, surveys, etc.)? Will you have time to get all of it?
Benefits/Risks. What good things do you hope will happen if
you do this project? Could any bad things happen? If so, how
will you minimize risk?
Outcomes. What will the final project document look like?
What will it contain? Who will read it? What arguments will
you make, and who will do what as a result of reading these arguments?
How will your organize the document (i.e., according to what conventions)?
The proposal should be 2-3 pp. long, in memo format. Use headings
and other document design features to organize the information. Samples
in The Writing of Business, Chapter 12, will give you some ideas on format.
No matter how you organize the memo, include a detailed schedule
for the project. Finally, of course, you want to make sure your proposal
is mechanically clean and correct. With proposals as with other kinds
of business writing, breaking conventions of grammar, spelling, and usage
can damage your chances of a favorable reading.
Your most important goals are to persuade me that 1. you have a good
project and 2. you'll be able to complete it successfully and on time.
The expression of the proposal should support these goals, so you should
sound clear and confident. However, don't gloss over potential
problems and difficulties. On the contrary, a thoughtful and forthright
analysis of potential problems or barriers may increase my confidence in
your ability to grasp a complex situation realistically.
Three: Research and Develop Your Project Document
DEVELOPING YOUR PROJECT DOCUMENT.
Based on your proposal and your discussion with me, proceed to implement
your project plan, according to GRACE:
Goals. The project document should provide the primary/decision-making
readers with all necessary information. After reading the document,
the primary readers should understand what you want them to understand
and should be in a position to take the action you want them to take.
Readers. The final project document should fulfill the
primary readers' needs and expectations: what are these in your case?
It should take the needs of secondary readers into account (again, what
are these?) and demonstrate an awareness of how those readers will gain
access to the information in the document.
Arguments. The project document should support all claims
(suggestions, plans, recommendations, etc.) with specific data and
provide warrants that link the data to the claims. Documentation--sources
of information, principles of interpretation, methods of analysis, and
justification and rationale for methods–should establish credibility.
Conventions. The final project document should include:
See Chapter 13 and example on 580-84.
a title page
an executive summary
a table of contents
appropriate headings to organize and highlight the sections of the document
a list of works cited (with at least five current sources)
at least one graphic
appendices (if necessary)
The report writers need to make appropriate decisions regarding document
design, including page layout, readability of headings, fonts, how and
where to integrate graphics, etc.
Expression. The style should be clear and direct.
It should use any specialized or technical language appropriate for its
target readers but should define any such language if the readers will
not understand it. The document should follow conventions of correct
grammar, spelling, and usage. It should be edited and proofread carefully.
PLANNING THE ORAL PRESENTATION
As part of the group project, you will give a 15 minute presentation
to the class based on your group project and the advice in Chapter 14.
Assumptions about your role as presenters. Your presentation
to the class should show that you have analyzed the problem well, have
set reasonable goals for your project, have considered the needs of all
those affected if your arguments prevail, and have designed a well-argued
solution. Teams might organize themselves into these roles:
General Advice. While Chapter 14 will offer more information,
here are some general reminders:
Speaker(s). Deliver an oral report to the group.
Recorder. After the presentation, take notes on the responses to the report.
Moderator. Lead a constructive discussion of the report.
Don't try to cover every detail. Just hit the highlights, the interesting
or key points. Give listeners a sense of what the report covers,
and make them want to read it.
Plan your introduction and conclusion carefully. Include a purpose
statement and overview in your introduction to help gain some interest.
Rehearse your presentation so that you can refer to your notes, outline,
etc. while maintaining eye contact with your audience. Figure out
how to keepp to your time limit.
Use at least one visual in your presentation; plan to discuss it in your
talk. (Let me know if you need help preparing transparencies.) Standards
of clarity, appropriateness to audience, grammar, usage, punctuation, and
spelling apply to these visuals just as they do to your other written work.
MANAGING THE PROJECT
Use the following guidelines for (1) organizing and structuring yourselves
and (2) enhancing communication and accountability among yourselves.
A Note On Minutes
I won't require that you keep minutes of your group meetings, but I
recommend it. Think of the minutes as a project management tool for you--which
they are. The primary audience for the minutes is yourselves. Communication
can break down in groups. People don't hear agendas the same way, they
don't understand assignments the same way, or they forget assignments and
deadlines, or they duplicate assignments, or. . . . you name it. Keeping
regular minutes helps avoid significant communication or project-management
problems. For an overview of what needs to be in a good set of minutes
and for a typical pattern of organization, see Chapter 3.
Shared Responsibility, Shared Rewards
The project grade will be based on the quality of the written project
and also on the quality of the documentation of the work on the project--topic
memos, proposal, in-class progress report, draft, etc. All the members
of a group will share the reward (i.e., the grade), just as happens in
the professional world. However, as also usually happens in the professional
world, you will have an opportunity to comment individually to me on the
quality of the process after the project is completed and to acknowledge
the work of anyone whose contributions to the project's success have been
Blowup: Thinking About The Unthinkable
You, as a group, are responsible for managing the work of your group.
Sometimes, for whatever reasons, people just don't get the job done, and
they let their group down. If somebody is freeloading, there needs to be
an escape mechanism whereby the group can do damage control by cutting
dead weight free. The following guidelines are designed with two purposes
in mind: first, to limit the power of one person to affect the grade of
the group, and, second, to limit the power of the group to affect the grade
of one person.
You can be fired by your group under the following conditions:
1. More than once, you either don't show up for a group meeting in or
out of class, OR you don't produce something you promised the group by
the time you promised it.
2. You don't notify the group of a reasonable excuse (illness or emergency)
for not doing whatever you didn't do. (Your group defines "reasonable,"
using the description in the syllabus as a guideline.)
Consequences of Being Fired
If your group fires you, you have to produce a final project on your
own, with the understanding that there will be a 10-point penalty to the
grade, since you'll be missing part of the point of the project.
EVALUATION OF THE PROJECT
SUBMISSION OF FINAL PORTFOLIO
In a single folder clearly marked with all your names, submit your final
document and all your work toward it:
any initial brainstorming (e.g., topic e-mail to me)
project proposal with my comments
any committee logs, agendas, minutes, or notes
rough drafts with readers' comments
two copies of the final document.
Evaluative Criteria for the Proposal
Evaluative Criteria for the Progress Report
The proposal convinces readers that the project is worthwhile and can be
The proposal uses format and document design features effectively.
The proposal provides a detailed schedule for the project.
The proposal uses clear, direct language.
The proposal follows conventions of correct grammar, spelling, and usage.
Evaluative Criteria for the Oral Presentation
The progress report defines the situation the project began with, tells
what's happened since the project started, and announces plans to complete
The progress report provides a convincing account of what has been done
even if the situation is routine.
If something unexpected has occurred, the progress report makes appropriate
arguments concerning changes the writer proposes in view of what's happened.
The progress report uses format and document design features effectively
The progress report's expression is appropriate for its goals, readers,
Evaluative Criteria for the Final project
ORGANIZATION: The presentation is structured to aid listener's retention.
It provides a brief overview of what you'll cover in the introduction of
your talk; foreshadows what's coming next; uses bridging between chunks
of the talk; uses backtracking to review what's been covered; and closes
by summarizing your main points.
CONTENT: The body of the presentation is complete. It includes all
information needed to persuade listeners of the validity of your argument.
This argument and its claims are well supported by the appropriate data.
DELIVERY: The presenters speak clearly, loudly, and at an effective pace.
Good eye contact enables presenters to connect with the audience. Gestures
are natural, appropriate, and confident.
VISUAL AIDS: Visual aids are effective in enhancing the presentation.
TIMING: Presenters kept to the time limit.
The final project document provides the primary/decision-making readers
with all necessary information. After reading the document, the primary
readers understand what you want them to understand and is in a position
to take the action you want them to take.
The project document fulfills the primary readers' needs and expectations.
The document takes the needs of secondary readers into account and demonstrates
an awareness of how those readers will gain access to the information in
The project document supports all claims (suggestions, plans, recommendations,
etc.) with specific data and provides warrants that link the data
to the claims.
Documentation--sources of information, principles of interpretation, methods
of analysis, and justification and rationale for methods–establishes credibility.
There are at least five current sources.
The final project document follows conventions for title page, executive
summary, table of contents, headings to organize and highlight the
sections of the document, a list of works cited (with at least five current
sources), at least one graphic, appendices (if necessary)
The style is clear and direct.
The document use any specialized or technical language appropriate for
its target readers but defines any such language if the readers will not
The document follows conventions of correct grammar, spelling, and usage.